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The public service commonwealth

Paul Evans
19 May 2001

Elsewhere on openDemocracy, in response to the question about elections and democracy, I’ve argued that ‘netiquette’ and the transparency of the web are powerful engines for building new public spaces. But if the web is to enrich the process, we require a civil space that we trust - not a million proprietary fragments. In short, we need to ensure v2.0 of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) gets an effective service release. And this can only be ensured by a secure future for PSB v1.98.

This will only be happen if we ensure that exceptions to all of the worst aspects of state-aid rules continue to apply to broadcasting and other media technologies in forthcoming global treaties. We mustn’t continue to allow powerful lobbies to distort the nature of new technology to rehash old demands for deregulation. And surprise surprise! The popular misconception of the new technology clearly serves these demands.

Public-interest media regulation has never been needed as much as it is today. But let’s not just think globally here: let’s act locally. The BBC is the world’s finest news source – but it’s getting shallower by the day. We need to enrich its veneer of common ownership. If it is to sustain its legitimacy in the face of the challenge from pay-per-view operators who have to fight for every penny from customers, we need a more meaningful way of jointly shaping the corporation than the blunt instrument of comparative ratings figures.

It’s time to mutualise the BBC – and make it a commonwealth. A bit like the Internet really.

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